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Adam Silver: Some NBA players could compete in games for ‘national psyche’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 16: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulates Kawhi Leonard #2 of Team LeBron after being named the Kobe Bryant MVP during the 69th NBA All-Star Game at the United Center on February 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Whenever the NBA ends it hiatus, the league faces a couple key questions:

Continue the current regular season, begin the playoffs or start a new season?

Play with with fans present or without fans present?

But apparently players could take the court for a game completely outside the existing paradigm.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver on ESPN:

The third option option that we’re looking at now – and I would say all suggestions welcome – is that, as I sort of beginning of this interview I mentioned, the impact to me on the national psyche of having no sports programming on television. And one of the things we’ve been talking about: Are there conditions in which a group of players could compete? And maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or just for the collective good of the people. That you take a subset of players, and and is there a protocol in which they can be tested and quarantined or isolated in some way? And then they compete against each other. Just because, again, people are stuck at home, and I think they need a diversion. They need to be entertained. And I just add to that point, one of the thoughts I’ve heard from several of our teams and something I’ve been thinking about a lot is, to the extent we were the first to shut our league down, in what way can we be a first mover to help restart the economy? Because, again, I would just add is, when you think about public health, of course shutting down the economy – and I’m not criticizing the fact that we’re doing it right now. We’re following whatever the directives are. But there’s no doubt that shutting down the economy is a public-health matter as well. I mean, just in the case of the NBA, when you include all our day-of-game works in our arenas, just the NBA accounts for roughly 55,000 jobs. And so I think we all have to be thinking collectively at what the right balance is.

Reminder: The NBA was forced into suspending its season only after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Hours earlier, the league was reportedly planning to continue games, just without fans present – something we now understand could have been disastrous. The NBA got lucky with Gobert’s early diagnosis – and that’s putting it generously. Gobert put himself at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. His recklessness increased the odds of the NBA being positioned to pat itself on the back as a leader in this crisis.

The NBA is a business that operates as a business. Sometimes, that overlaps with virtue. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But the driver is almost always financial.

This is not a criticism. It’s an acknowledgement of reality.

Silver is right: We should be concerned with both the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. Lost jobs also bring significant consequences.

And of course, the NBA would love to be on the front lines of earning money again. The league, already hit hard by the China controversy last fall, is losing significant revenue amid this stoppage. A resumption of play in any form could have widespread benefits – to charities and arena works Silver alluded to, to players and, of course, to owners.

It could also lift the national psyche. We do use sports as a diversion and entertainment.

Silver isn’t wrong on any of this. Just remember his motivations as he spins toward the most altruistic reasons for playing.

Then, if these types of games happen, enjoy them. We needn’t resent the NBA for making money – especially when it leads to a product that gives us pleasure.